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Lock Sticking? How to Lubricate it in an Emergency

Locks keep you and your property safe and relieve your worries, but sometimes they just stop working. As this often happens without any warning whatsoever, it can leave you in a bit of a predicament, either unable to lock your door and leave your home secured, or stuck outside without a way to get in.

Calling a locksmith is the usual way to get the lock repaired so you can resume using it as normal, but sometimes locks simply become stiff or seize up completely as the lubrication wears away. When this happens, you can lubricate them yourself to get them going again, but what if you don't have any suitable products to hand? Here are some alternative ways to lubricate a lock.


Many households have a trusty can of WD-40 knocking about, making it an easy choice when you need to lubricate a lock. It's actually a controversial choice, however, as it can sometimes do more harm than good.

WD-40 is not actually a true lubricant – it's a water displacer that's great for preventing rust and also happens to make a useful short-term lubricating option.

The problem is that, after a short time, a lot of the liquid evaporates, reducing its lubricating properties. The remaining WD-40 thickens as it oxidises, and as dirt and dust gradually build up, you're left with a sticky mess deep inside the lock that can cause worse problems than you began with.

If you use it carefully, it can be helpful though. The trick is to go easy. Spray a small amount onto the key, never directly into the lock, and work it in slowly. Keep going until the lock works again, so you avoid using excessive amounts.

Pencil graphite

One of the best lubricants for locks is actually graphite, and what are pencils filled with? You guessed it.

Carefully shave away some of the wood of an ordinary pencil (not a coloured one!) to leave a long piece of graphite. There are two options for the next step.

You can either do it gradually, gently shaving graphite onto the key and working it in. Alternatively, you can insert the long piece of graphite into the lock and wiggle it around to grind it up, but be careful to not snap off any large chunks.

If done right, this makes a good longer-term fix for sticking locks.

What not to use

Don't be tempted to use food or motor oils as these will clog up a lock in no time. If in doubt over any potential solution, steer clear. Locks are easily damaged, leaving you in even more difficulty. For more information, contact a locksmith company like Border Locksmiths.